Almost three decades ago, a zealous youth, fresh from completing her diploma stepped into YWCA Preschool @ McNair (then known as YWCA Child Development Centre) after being persuaded by a friend to help. What she didn’t know then, was how that glimpse of the Early Childhood industry would lead her to find her lifelong calling and passion in teaching children.
“Children’s responses are so unpredictable and it’s what makes teaching fun and exciting.” -Mrs Salleh
Today, Mrs Salleh, 46, is one of YWCA Preschool’s longest-serving teachers. She is a familiar face at the organisation and at our preschool at McNair and is well-known for her bubbly character and her unwavering dedication to teaching.
Indeed, Mrs Salleh’s passion for teaching stands out above all else. When asked what about the early childhood field attracts her, she said, “Children’s responses are so unpredictable and it’s what makes teaching fun and exciting. Every day I get different responses from my children and sometimes I learn from them. We are teachers, but it doesn’t mean we know everything. Children nowadays are so exposed, and we learn from one another.”
In the early childhood teaching profession, every day is full of surprises and uncertainties because of the unpredictable nature of children’s behaviours. No one day is the same and Mrs Salleh often starts the day wondering how her day will unfold and whether her lessons will go well.
“I used to question the outcome of my lesson and set certain expectations for the children. However, I came to realise that children need time to find their own footing. Instead [of questioning the outcome], I would reflect on the way I responded to my children and ensure that the tone of voice I used with them was appropriate. If I want to go home happily, definitely the children want to go home happily. Having the right tone of voice helps in getting the attention of the children and getting better outcomes,” she shares.
There is never a dull moment in Mrs Salleh’s classroom. The vivacious educator actively engages her students through lively story-telling sessions, songs and drama. We watched her teach a lesson on numeracy using a popular storybook, ‘The Very Quiet Cricket’ by Eric Carle, and were surprised at how engaging a math lesson could be. There was hardly any sign of disorder as one would expect in a room full of energetic children as her K1 class listened attentively and took part in counting storybook insects and answering math questions. It was surely satisfying to see that the children were enjoying their lesson.
Mrs Salleh believes in creating a positive learning environment for children. She defines success as the ability of children to complete tasks with confidence on their own. “It is rewarding to see a child gain confidence in completing tasks independently and showing improvement in different areas of learning. Every child is special in their own way, and as educators, we should not limit their learning capabilities, but instead, we should allow children to grow at their own pace, encourage them and let them learn to express themselves in their own way”, she added.
“Even though I might sometimes come across as firm, I believe it is good to instil good moral values in the children. Good cooperation is key to ensuring a healthy classroom environment too.” -Mrs Salleh
What happens then when a conflict between children arises in class? Mrs Salleh shares that she does not believe in becoming the mediator. “I believe that children can resolve disputes by themselves, and I will step in when I think it is necessary. They quarrel and I’ll get angry but later on, they turn around and become the best of friends again, playing happily together. Sometimes, it is better to let them decide what is the best solution to resolve a conflict,” said Mrs Salleh, jokingly.
Perhaps her reputation as a disciplinarian helps put things in order. She shares in amusement how her playful children will sometimes get up to some mischief or chit chat during nap time when she steps out of the classroom, but all will be peace and quiet as though nothing happened the moment they hear her coming back.
“Even though I might sometimes come across as firm, I believe it is good to instil good moral values in the children. Good cooperation is key to ensuring a healthy classroom environment too,” she explained.
Early childhood educators play a big role in helping parents support their children’s learning and well-being. Like all teachers at YWCA Preschool, Mrs Salleh provides frequent updates of children’s progress to parents and shares with them her observations of their child’s day in school whenever the opportunity arises.
It is not always easy, however. Mrs Salleh recalled a time when a K2 child poured his heart out to her and the entire class about his parents’ quarrels at home. The child was visibly troubled and shaken. She was deeply concerned for him and felt she could not standby and not do anything about it. Despite her best intentions, the parents did not take well to her feedback that they refrain from arguing in front of their child. “Sometimes, you tend to lose yourself in the process of helping a child. It is important to learn how to manage your emotions and to remain neutral when resolving the issue,” she added.
Mrs Salleh’s care for her children and dedication to teaching is truly an inspiration to us all. YWCA Preschool is indeed blessed to have her with us all these years.
So, what does she like about working with YWCA Preschool? “My colleagues at YWCA Preschool are open to ideas, and we constantly learn from one another. We work well together and mutually respect one another since we only have each other to depend on,” she laughed. “I am a fan of YWCA’s moral values because they helped shape me into who I am today.”
To all budding educators out there, Mrs Salleh has some final tips to share:
Ask yourself what your expectation and goal as an Early Childhood Educator is. Put yourself in the shoes of a child and do not force your ideas on the children. Instead, work and learn alongside them. Teaching becomes fun and enjoyable when you start rediscovering things through their eyes. It is helpful to re-evaluate your expectations for the children and design effective strategies to bring out the best in every child.
Children gain confidence in learning when teachers constantly shower them with encouragement. A teacher who understands the child’s needs and makes a conscious effort to encourage them will make their learning experience more wholesome.
Children learn best from example, and it is essential that a teacher behaves in a way she expects children to behave. Maintaining good eye contact makes communication more effective.
YWCA Preschool is always on the lookout for passionate educators like Mrs Salleh, who are willing to make a difference in the lives of our future generations. Start a career with us today! Drop your resume off at email@example.com or check out our careers page for more details.
If you are a parent and would like to find out more about our enrolment process, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org! Also, follow us on Facebook & Instagram for some insightful tips and behind-the-scenes work at our preschools.